Kelley Atherton, The Triplicate

With the help of a national expert, Del Norte County schools are going to devise a plan to improve student attendance.

Hedy Chang with Attendance Works, a national organization, will talk to the School Board about attendance issues nationwide and here in Del Norte on Thursday.

Not attending school regularly can affect a children's learning and put them behind their peers, but it also affects the district's bottom line. The district loses about $45 for every day that a child misses school.

The School Board will also receive an update on the school district's current budget and the 2012andndash;2013 budget

Chang will be working with school officials on developing a plan to get more students to attend school regularly.

"She's going to be talking about attendance issues across the country

and in California," said Superintendent Don Olson, "and effective

practices to improve attendance that have been proven over time to

work."

Chang will meet with school officials Friday to develop the attendance plan.

"Literally, this is the national spokesperson. We're excited she's going to be here," Olson said.

Locally, the district has attendance data from the past two years and

anecdotal information from parents and students about why children are

missing school, Olson said.

"We have our data ready that we'll be talking about with her," he said.

Transportation to school seems to be one barrier, Olson said.

A solution could be that the district hires someone to pick up those

students who are having trouble getting to school, he said. An

additional 25 students attending school could bring in more than $1,000

in funding for one day, Olson said.

"We want to meet the needs of the students," he said.

Chang will also be talking about ways to support families. The

district could educate parents on why attending school, especially in

the younger grades, is so important, Olson said.

She has already advised the district on providing incentives for

students to attend school, Olson said, such as rewards or prizes, not

just at the end of the school year, but monthly or weekly.

Olson anticipates that there will be a draft attendance plan after

Chang's two-day visit. This will be brought before the School Board as

soon as January to implement immediately, he said.

Also on Thursday, the School Board will be look at its current budget and next year's.

"It's going to be a little bit of an update on the 2011andndash;2012 budget

for the rest of the year and our first guess of what will happen in

2012andndash;2013," said Deputy Superintendent Rodney Jahn.

There is a possibility of mid-year cuts to education. The revenue

California will bring in this fiscal year is already below estimates,

which could trigger cuts, Jahn said.

"We may not know until mid-January," he said. "We'll get a better idea on Dec. 15."

That's when the state's finance department will give an update on the state's finances, Jahn said.

The cut to Del Norte schools would be $861,380, but two unpaid

furlough days in place for most employees and elimination of classified

positions should make up the difference, he said.

Next school year, the district will be facing the end of some

"one-time" funding, including federal stimulus, education jobs bill and

the forest reserves money for schools, Jahn said.

"One way or the other, after this year, we're going to be losing a

lot of one-time money," Jahn said. "To make up our budget, we're going

to have to try and look for other ways to increase the revenues or

decrease the expenditures."

Reach Kelley Atherton at katherton@triplicate.com.

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